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Subject: Burning In The Skies rss

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Cedric Chong
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“I used the deadwood to make the fire rise
The blood of innocence burning in the skies
I filled my cup with the rising of the sea
I poured it out in an ocean of debris”
- Linkin Park




Background

I devoured the Commander’s Manual. Literally chewed it to pieces. Picked up a couple of interesting rules. Before I knew it, Leviathans made it back onto the gaming table.

One thing I was trying to do was to speed up the game duration. I could see how a few rules in the Commander’s Manual might just do that. Particularly the Turrets which expanded the weapon’s firing arc by A LOT. And the Bracketing Fire, which helped to add more dice to an attack (But you only choose the best two weapon dice result). The other movement rules also provided more freedom to a ship’s movement.

Excitedly, I launched into the game.

The Game

The torpedoes rule was really interesting! Wanting to test it out, I chose ships with torpedoes.

In turn one, the first thing I thought about was launching a torpedo. But I quickly realized that torpedoes were supposed to be launched before movement. From the deployment position, there was not going to be any meaningful path available to launch a torpedo. So I just moved towards my enemies in a good old dog fight.

Things started to heat up. Immediately, I could see how the Turrets rule and the Bracketing Fire rule changed the game. There were so much more firing going on its crazy! And most of the hits connected because of Bracketing Fire!

Both sides launched a couple of torpedoes. I had probably placed the Torpedo Launch markers in the wrong hex a few times. And maybe read the LOS wrong a few times.

Within two turns, both sides suffered heavy damage. Almost too quickly, a Critical Damage was inflicted onto the Pontbriand… It was only at that point when I noticed how damaged the ship was. It had a combined modifier of around +8. Structural Integrity was 20. I thought that was a 45% chance. Making that roll was going to be easy, and I made it! Enemy ship shot down!

The next few turns, France won initiative. How difficult it was to “catch” that bugger. Not only was the La Gloire much faster with an MP of 12, it got to move last. So it could tactically maneuver out of harms way.

At one point, the La Gloire had a chance to take out my HML Raven. But I survived even though one location was destroyed. Note: I conveniently forgot that when an attack caused the last slot in a location to be destroyed, I needed to make a Breaking The Keel Roll…

At this point, it felt like I could not catch that irritating mosquito. It kept positioning its bow-side towards my ship, slowly sniping bits of metal off my ships. Because it’s bow-side was facing me, it had a narrower profile, so it was harder to hit it as well.

Then I won the initiative. Hehehe. And a quick goodbye followed for the last French ship.

Aftermath

This game took only 90 minutes! Hurrah!! Here are some random thoughts.

More movement options are great! A big jump from the Lieutenant’s Manual to the Commander’s Manual is the improved freedom and flexibility to your ship’s movement. Stationary hexside turns and sideslips are great.

I love Turrets! I love Bracketing Fire! I feel these two rules are enough to change the entire gaming experience. And I have not even tried Saturation fire yet. Because my biggest challenge with the previous game was game duration, anything to speed up the game is great. With more firepower, you do more damage and ships go down much faster! Slots were getting destroyed left, right, center. And you know what? Bracketing Fire (and Saturation Fire) ignores Miss Slots! Down with all Type 1 Ships! I love it!

Markers work great! One of my BIGGEST concerns before buying this game was the damage-tracking mechanism. No more! I find that using a marker works effectively. Only problem is I somehow got some ink to the sides of the card. The side of the card obviously isn’t laminated. So the red ink cannot be wiped off

Initiative is very important! Something that was not so apparent to me previously is the importance of winning initiative. Leviathans is a game based around the firing arcs of the ships. As such positioning is critical. And what affects positioning? Movement. I find being able to react after your opponent's move is a HUGE bonus.

Smaller ships (Type 1) are very hard to catch! Because movement is resolved from Type 4 down to Type 1, smaller ships have the advantage of being able to maneuver out of danger after everyone else has moved. Combine this with their higher MPs and the effect of Initiative, good luck catching Type 1 ships with your larger ships if your opponent wins initiative.

I am suspecting with enough patience, a Type 1 ship can dance around and snipe down a Type 4 1v1.

Torpedoes are redundant in small-scale games. In this game I had 2 ships a side. I feel the torpedoes are used more to tactically restrict opponent’s movement than to deal damage. I foresee the possibilities of torpedoes having a larger impact in larger scale battles where the play area is filled with ships and hence being hit becomes un-avoidable. But in smaller games, I’d switch over a ship with guns over a ship with Torpedoes.

Torpedoes sloooow down the game. As if trying to figure out how your ships’ final position is falling into every enemy’s firing arc (and vice versa) is not enough, we now have Torpedoes LOS to worry about. Torpedoes pack a huge punch in terms of damage. In practice (disclaimer until I get to play a larger fleet game), torpedoes are mostly evadable. I find the rules for Torpedoes really neat. The almost fire-and-forget and stay-in-initial-projectile-path behavior of torpedoes is cleanly executed in the rules. Torpedoes are fun. And I like the thinking involved in planning and avoiding torpedoes. However, the opportunity costs of adding two phases every turn just for torpedoes, versus the return on investments of game experience and duration is just not worth it. There is a rule in the Captain’s Manual for Fog-Of-War Torpedoes. I do not see it shortening the analysis paralysis (AP). If anything, because the target markers are facedown, there will be more AP.

Defensive Screening & Offensive Screening? At this point, I want to shorten the game duration to get more plays in, I’m inclined to not play these two rules. Yes, they grant more tactical options. But I really need the ships to go down faster, not prolong their lives. Plus these rules invoke LOS. Any rules that uses LOS increases game duration.

In the game, if we had been playing with screening rules, the La Gloire could have danced around and execute offensive screens every turn using the Raven as a screen against the Essex.

Repair Ships? Again, I want the ships to go down faster, not prolong their lives.

Because right now I’m aiming to speed up the game, I’m very inclined to use the following rules.
1. Yes to all movement rules. Including hexside turns, sideslips, and ramming.
2. Yes to Turrets, Saturation Fire and Bracketing Fire.
3. No to Torpedoes.
4. No to defensive screening and offensive screening.
5. No ship repairs.
6. Use Lieutenant’s Manual rules for destroyed ships. I.e. Ship is destroyed if:
 a. Number of destroyed slots equals to half of its Structural Integrity.
 b. Any single location is destroyed (all 6 slots, Miss Slots count as “destroyed”).
 c. An opponent succeeds a Breaking The Keel roll.
 d. Ends movement outside play area.

Point 6 is a very significant change. In the Commander’s Manual, ship is destroyed only under three conditions. First, if the number of destroyed slots equals to its Structural Integrity value (not half). Second, an opponent succeeds a Breaking The Keel roll. And third, ends movement outside play area. Destroying a single location does not destroy the ship outright.

My intention is to use points 1 to 6 for my next few games. Maybe after a few large scale battles, I may use point 3 and 4 (torpedoes and screening). Let’s see how it works out

p.s. I’m secretly waiting for the opportunity to use the ramming rule to displace an opponent’s ship out of the sky (play area), and hence destroy it outright! Oh, the satisfaction I will get…



EDIT: John pointed out an error! On page 13, the torpedo fired by the La Gloire is not allowed. The target hex must be in the firing arc of the location where the torpedo is mounted. In this case, the Port-side. Thanks John for pointing this out!
ajax2647 wrote:
Now I don't mean to nitpick, I just want to make sure I understand the rules correctly. So, on page 13, TURN 4 of your session, isn't the placement of the target hex for the La Gloire torpedo actually lying OUTSIDE the Port arc of the ship, whereas it should be anywhere within this arc?



Poll: Help me improve!
I need your feedback! Appreciate if you can share with me your thoughts so that I know what works better. If you have suggestions, please do add a comment or send me a private mail :)
What do you think?
Make the comics longer (more pages)!
Make the comics shorter (less pages)!
Show dice results and calculations for each combat.
Dice results and exact calculations are not necessary.
I enjoy the story-telling elements more. More role-playing dialogues will be interesting.
Skip the story-telling, just show me how the game plays.
I like FX (muzzle flashes, debris...).
FX doesn't come in the box, just show me the game as it is.
Show me turn-by-turn play.
Just show me the highlights, skip the mundane.
Pause and show me decision-making, thought process and tactics.
Show me the firing arc, weapon hex and LOS guides.
No need for the details. Speed things up.
I like close-up shots. It shows me how the components look.
I prefer wide-angle top-down view. It gives me a vantage view of the battlefield.
I like the touches of the lyrics from Linkin Park.
Who is Linkin Park?
      29 answers
Poll created by maxixe




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His Majesty's First
Burning In The Skies
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A Geeklist of all my comic-style "stuff"
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Tremendous effort and write-up! Thank you.

Your description of this game reminds me of Sky Galleons of Mars. Have you played it?


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Andrew loses (again)
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Excellent write-up. You're spot on about most of your points.

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I legally own hundreds of polyhedral assault dice!
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Maxixe brings yet another great battle game to life in a spectacular fashion! Well done, Maxixe!

He should be doing Player's Guides for all his favorite games!
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Cedric Chong
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@wandererdog Thanks for your kind words. I have not heard of Sky Galleons of Mars.. but the cover art sure looks like the sort of firing and explosion graphics I was looking at. Is it anything like Leviathans?

@miscalculation Thanks. Regarding the points I made.. those are really thoughts just after two plays. So its very preliminary and I will not be surprised if my opinions change after a couple more plays. It usually does.

@Brady Hehe, thanks pal. Perhaps we can work together on a project some time? I can put the panels and the photoshop stuffs together, but my story-telling and dialogues are really terrible.
 
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See, Cedric, I told you Lieutenants Manual was no go

Great battle, but I think you might have simpled down the tactics part a bit and went just for straight side to side slug fest.

Which is super fun and tempting, but try to be more sneaky next time and see how that changes things.


Small ships can unfortunately dance around big ships, especially Jean Bart - it has no stern weapons and weak armor there. If you manage to get his engines (two hits are enough), the opponent can forfeit if he/she is playing French. Since type 4 moves first, there's no way it will be able to maneuver to bring any gun to bear on a destroyer.

Anyways, as I said pretty solid work, congratulations.
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Markus
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Wow, what an excellent session report! Did you use some comic software to make this or just trusty old photoshop?
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Cedric Chong
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Hi thanks people for all the kind words and generous thumbs and GG! I feel so perked up and encouraged

Making a session report like this is pretty time-consuming:
90 minutes - Total time to play game.
15 minutes - Total time (in-game) to take pictures.
3.5 hours - Total time for panels and layouts.
4.5 hours - Total time for FX (muzzle flashes, explosions, debris) and movement arrows.
2 hours - Total time for text write up.

Although I try to make it interesting, I suspect parts of the final work may actually be boring or redundant. There is a lot of guess work involved on what works. Then I thought, hey perhaps you can help me!

I've added a poll at the end of the original post.

If you can kindly take some time to give me your feedback, it'll help me a lot in knowing what works and what does not. Appreciate your kind advice!
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Dave Graffam
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The first report showed us the basics, including the die roll calculations. Pretty useful as a primer.

The second report didn't need that stuff, and introduced some new rules in a way that was easy to follow. This report is great, especially after seeing the first.

I think for your next report, you can assume that we've seen the first two (or will go back and check them out), so there's no need to re-explain things we've already seen. Probably don't need to show us initiative rolls or any rolls that we've seen many times before, but it would be cool to see how any new rules are handled.

I do like to see the hits and misses, but I'd be okay with fast-forwarding through some turns where there are mostly misses.

The muzzle flashes and debris are great.
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Ray Greenley
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Another fantastic report. I love it! I like the details of the die results and maneuver arrows. What might be nice (but maybe not once you try to get it in a frame) is a summary total vs target number for attacks.

The FX of the shots and hits are spectacular. I'm sure they add a lot to the production time, but they're also very helpful in knowing exactly which ship is firing and which ship is being fired upon. If you decide to cut down on them to make the write-ups quicker to do, please include some indicator to make attacker and target obvious.

Thanks a lot for these reports. As someone who wants the game but probably won't be able to get it, these really give a good feel for the game play.
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Chris Montgomery
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As for wanting to speed up the game . . . a cool mechanic from Flying Colors is a "Break Off" roll - once a fleet takes X amount of lost ships, dismasted ships, or some other trigger, roll a die after each turn to see if the fleet calls off the engagement. This would significantly reduce the play time for larger battles.

I also think that your ideas are good ones for speeding up the game, but not necessarily good for getting into the depth of the game's maneuver and tactics. But I need to play a bit a more before I'll truly know that.

Cheers! Oh, and thanks for the GREAT write up!
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